Glenn Miller Orchestra keeps swing sound jumping
Published 11:42 am Saturday, May 3, 2014
COURTLAND—Call it swing or the big band sound, the musical era from the 1930s to 1940s lives on through The Glenn Miller Orchestra. Named after one of the most famous band leaders of that time, the ensemble will perform on Tuesday, May 6. This is the final program of the season presented by the Franklin-Southampton Concert Association.
There are 17 people on this tour, including saxophonists, slide trombonists, trumpets, piano, bass and drums. Natalie Angst is the female singer, and keeping them all together is Nick Hilscher, musical director and male vocalist since 2012. His history with the band and love of that music goes back much further.
While studying classical piano at college, the 21-year-old student sent in a tape to Larry O’Brien, who led the band from the mid-1980s to his retirement in 2010. Hilscher was called in to audition.
“I started as the male vocalist in 1998 when I was 22 years old. I was with them up until 2005 in that capacity,” he said. After first joining, Hilscher sang for a year before returning to complete his degree. Following that, he turned around and was back on the road performing. He’s even recorded an album with the orchestra; just last year they made “In the Mood.”
“Then I got married and did all of that,” Hilscher added. “They contacted me to become the musical director at the end of 2011.”
“All of that,” by the way, has included not only he and his wife having three children, but also solo performances and his own album, “Young and Foolish” from 2010. A variety of songs is included on the recording, many of which are his influences.
“I grew up on Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, and being from Atlanta, the country music of late ‘70s and early 80s, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and that kind of thing,” said Hilscher. “The overall feel of that type of music is swing.”
His first exposure to that style came when he saw “The Glenn Miller Story.”
“I fell in love with the music and that is what began a new journey in my life musically,” he said, and also spoke briefly about the orchestra’s history.
“The band that will be performing — we pride ourselves — goes back to Glenn Miller. After WWII, the band started without Glenn, of course, in 1946 and lasted a few years. In 1956, it reformed and started again. That will be performing next week,” he said. Incidentally, there are also licensed GMO bands in Europe.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra is on the road for 48 out of 52 weeks a year. This has been the average since the mid-1950s, and there are usually five shows a week, said Hilscher.
“It’s a different venue every time we play. It’s amazing the places we have been. We go everywhere,” he said. “As far as the traveling goes, it’s something you are either OK with or not. I had gotten used to it from an early age. It’s not always glamorous, but it’s enjoyable for me.”
He continued, “What I love is that music is such part of my life. I write a lot, sitting in front of the bus with a keyboard and computer.
“This is a dream job for me. Performing almost every night is a joy as well. It’s the reason we’re out here. I love my job, my duties.
“That’s what keeps me going.”
To learn more about the band and Hilscher, visit www.glennmillerorchestra.com and www.nickhilscher.com
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Southampton High School, 23350 Southampton Parkway, Courtland. Tickets at the door cost $30 for adults, $10 for students.
For more information, call Nancy Rowe at 653-7914 or Bill Vick at 653-2892.